GOP’s Flood Damage Proposal Lacks Funding: Democrats

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By Brandon Ross

The Republican plan to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) proposes improving residential infrastructure to curb flood damage but lacks the funding to pay for it, Democrats on the authorizing committee say.

“There’s not a dollar of mitigation in the [Republican’s] bill,” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said during a June 7 hearing on the draft plan. The authorization expires Sept. 30.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), chairman of the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee, released the plan to reauthorize the insolvent NFIP in late May through what now is a series of six draft bills. The NFIP owes $25 billion to the Treasury. The Republican plan would try to increase the NFIP’s solvency by limiting which properties would remain eligible for federal flood coverage.

The plan also aims to encourage the private market to take on a bigger role in flood underwriting. It also would expand on the NFIP’s mitigation programs.

At the hearing, witnesses representing taxpayers and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seemed to agree that proper mitigation would be the best way to reduce overall flood costs to the program and lower premiums to insure at-risk properties.

Every $1 spent on pre-disaster mitigation, like raising the foundation of homes or installing special window shutters to keep water out, saves $4 in post-disaster recovery cost, the Government Accountability Office has stated.

Under the plan, property owners with repeated flooding would receive priority for federal funds to take measures against flood damage. But owners of “multiple-loss properties” with the most expensive NFIP claims would be forced to take action to mitigate property damage or be blocked from NFIP coverage.

`Alluding to the Nonexistent'

The Republicans’ mitigation plans in the draft bills aren't credible because no funds would be set aside for the proposals, Waters suggested.

“You’re alluding to the nonexistent,” Waters said when witness Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, tried to defend the plan. “Until you can identify where the money is going to come from for mitigation, I don’t think it’s a credible thing.”

Hearing witnesses said lawmakers should consider facilitating not just property-level mitigation efforts but also what they dubbed community-wide mitigation. Community-wide mitigation includes building water runoff features into the environment around a flood-prone area, Josh Saks, legislative director of the National Wildlife Federation, told lawmakers.

Both of those witnesses’ groups are part of SmarterSafer.org, a pro-mitigation coalition of insurers, environmental groups, taxpayer advocates, and others.

Duffy’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Democrats’ attacks on the mitigation aspects of the committee’s plan.

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